King of the Castle
When we last saw Castle's Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) she was having to choose between Richard Castle's (Nathan Fillion) marriage proposal and a new job far away. With her answer and season six looming, James Croot caught up with creator Andrew L Marlowe on the Los Angeles set of the show.
You've now filmed more than 100 episodes, what's the biggest challenge of keeping the show going?
How to keep killing people in ways that are new and original and that you haven't seen before. They also need to offer Castle and Beckett an opportunity to have some kind of conversation about the murder. On other procedural shows (like CSI or SVUf) there's a lot of investment in victim sympathy, but because we walk the line between dramatic and funny, we have to find a way to keep the murder light.
So how do you find the inspiration for the deaths?
Sick, twisted minds. Lots of revenge fantasies fuelled by the upbringing of people in the writers' room - the way we all imagine dealing with different people in our lives. Actually, it does become quite disturbing after a while. You see something on the news and you go - ''I wouldn't have done it that way - oh wait, that's real - that's so horrible''. But also a lot of it is looking at the characters of Castle and Beckett, what would be compelling to them, what would surprise them, delight them. Because we have a wide tonal range - funny shows, serious shows - we need to find a personal investment for each of our characters.
When it comes to plotting a season, do you have a plan that you follow religiously?
I'd like to say we're geniuses and we have a plan we stick to, but often times we have a very clear plan that changes, depending on how stories and characters are emerging and what we want to do. We like to take opportunities and see how they reflect various relationships. Early on in season six, we look at challenges around Alexis (Molly Quinn) growing up and Castle's changing role in her life when his role is changing in Beckett's life as well.
That gave us some new territory as well as some fun, but yeah we have a sense of where we want to end up this season. We have a couple of signposts of how we're going to get there, but you never want to be so rigid that you turn back on the happy accidents that really breath life into the show here and there.
And how much say do the actors like to have in how events transpire?
I'm happy to talk to them about it, but I think they're happy just to come in and see what's going on. There are certain actors who would like to know and others who say ''well, my character doesn't know what's going to happen, so I'm okay not knowing so I can play all these moments as they come to me honestly''.
Have you been surprised at the success of the show?
As a writer in Hollywood, you just get surprised when something gets made, so to have the characters connect with an audience is a marvellous and remarkable thing. We are lucky to have a passionate fanbase who have responded to the characters and the actors who play them and the story we're telling.
And so how much attention do you pay to those fans?
I think it's important to pay attention to what the audience is saying, but not necessarily do what they want. Knowing how they're responding to what you're doing is very helpful though. However, sometimes you want them to be frustrated because you know what's coming - that you're going to resolve those issues.
And then there are also times when you want them to be in love with a happily in love couple because you know what's coming - that there are rocks ahead. I think it's a good barometer when they're getting frustrated with things.
Part of the challenge for us is getting feedback from shows just aired when you're five or six or more down the line. We know we have a very wide fanbase who are interested in different things and we know that not all of them are on Twitter. Part of the storytelling challenge is being able to balance all of that, everybody's agenda and service all of our characters.
So what does the future hold for Castle?
What we've seen over the last six years is Castle opening up a bit and Beckett letting down some of her walls. It's a challenging process when doing a show over a number of years to maintain a certain kind of equilibrium. I think there has to be growth.
Castle and Beckett's characters have not fundamentally changed, but they have had an effect on one another by coming into each other's orbit. Part of our challenge is to be able to move beyond the kinds of fun we were having in seasons 1, 2 and 3 to something for 4, 5, 6 and beyond. We have to look for the opportunities within the changing relationship to find the drama, the conflict, the fun, the sweetness and the romance as you move forward.
Otherwise, you have characters caught in a similar, familiar dance and then if you go the other way the audience get frustrated. There does come a point though where you've told all those stories and hopefully you exit gracefully. We don't feel like we're at that point yet - we have some good moments and some tricks up our sleeves, things we'd like to open up and things we'd like to resolve.
We all have lifelong friends whose stories and adventures remain interesting to us and that even though they've grown as people they are fundamentally the same kind of character. It is just a matter of putting them in new situations and under new pressures.
Finally, can we look forward to any more cameos from famous writers?
It is always a real challenge securing people because everybody is on book tours. I'd love to have Stephen King on the show, I think he would be a great get. We'll see if someday that comes true.
Castle 9.30pm, Monday, TV One